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Consumer Alert Issued in Midst of Upheaval

October 25, 2008
Contributing Business Writer

By Wayne Sheets,

The following is an excerpt from a Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert regarding those who may try to perpetrate fraud in connection with the confusion that prevails in the banking industry because of the recent banking upheaval:

The financial institution where you did business last week may have a new name today, and your checks and statements may come with a new look tomorrow. A new lender may have acquired your mortgage, and you could be mailing your payments to a new servicer. Procedure for the banking you do online may also have changed. According to the FTC, the nation's consumer protection agency, the upheaval in the financial marketplace may spur scam artists to "phish" for your personal information.

"Phishers" may send attention-getting e-mails that look like they're coming from the financial institution that recently acquired your bank, savings and loan or mortgage. Their intent is to collect or capture your personal information, like your credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords or other sensitive information. Their messages may ask you to "update," "validate" or "confirm" your account information. To prevent becoming a victim of such swindles, the FTC suggests these tips:

- Don't reply to an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, and don't click on links in the message even if it appears to be from your bank.

- Do not cut and paste a link from the message into your Web browser, either. Phishers can make links look like they go one place, but actually redirect you to another.

Some scammers call with a recorded message or send an e-mail that appears to be from an institution and ask you to call a phone number to update your account. Because they use Voiceover Internet Protocol technology, the area code you call does not reflect where the scammers are. Contact the institution you do business with only at the number(s) on your financial statements.

- Do not e-mail personal or financial information.

- Review your financial account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.

- Be cautions about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer's security.

Forward phishing e-mails to span@uce.gov and to the institution or company impersonated in the phishing e-mail. You may also report phishing e-mails to reportphishing@antiphishing.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of Internet service providers, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, uses these reports to fight phishing.

If you've been scammed, visit the FTC's identity theft Web site at www.ftc.gov/idtheft for important information on what to do.

For more tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information, visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll free 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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Kathy Vance, owner of Kathy's Decorating & Design at 122 Second St. in Elkins, recently announced that her annual Christmas Open House will be on Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nov. 2 from noon to 4 p.m. "Everyone is invited to stop in and see our wonderful gift selections throughout the store," Vance said. "We'll surround you with the Christmas spirit. We are also reducing prices by 20 percent storewide."

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The Randolph County Recreation Board is sponsoring an elimination dinner at Camp Pioneer on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. to raise money for renovation projects at the 4-H camp. A $50 ticket entitles the holder to two meals and a chance to win $1,000. Dinner will include an ox roast beef dinner, potatoes, vegetable, salad, roll and dessert. Beer and wine are also included. Tickets may be purchased at the West Virginia University Extension office at 201 Henry Ave., by calling 636-2455 or Dawn Swecker at 338-2905.

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The Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and BrickStreet are sponsoring an "Eggs and Issues" at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday in the meeting room of the Elkins Holiday Inn Express. Representatives from BrickStreet will talk about new measures the workers' compensation insurer is pursuing to prevent fraud. The meeting is one in a series of 10 that are being conducted across the state between now and mid-December to discuss BrickStreet's efforts in fraud prevention, investigation and prosecution. Attendees will hear statistics on how the Special Investigations Unit has saved the company's policyholders more than $2.3 million during the past three years.

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If not a record number, somewhere near it, of merchants turned out Tuesday morning for the Downtown Merchants meeting at Ceramics with Class. The main topic was the collection, formulation and a best vehicle to present information on downtown attractions and merchants to bus tour companies and other tourist agencies. Some members agreed to accept responsibility for different segments of the project and assured the collective body that they would follow through with the necessary action to keep the project moving.

There is little time left for the collection and preparation of the data and presentation format because conventions are soon to convene for the preparation of next year's tourist season. A major criteria for the presentation format, whatever its design, seems to be one that will entice people to come to Elkins and spend enough time to visit the small downtown shops.

"People want memories," said Dennis Lively, owner and operator of the Web site Elkins Live. "They want to visit places that are unique; Elkins is one of those places. We have to find the way to keep them here longer.

"Right now most are 'cherry picking' the area - that is they are visiting the major attractions such as the AMT, the excursion trains and even the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, and not spending enough time downtown," he said.

It seems to me that more merchants are becoming involved with the merchants' meetings and are sharing their ideas of what should and can be done for the benefit of everyone. Tuesday's meeting saw a longer dialog on one particular subject than I've seen since I began covering the meetings more than three years ago.

Those present agreed that all merchants should be a part of the effort, but cautioned that those who agreed to sign on with the project would have to be available to what is agreed upon by the majority - days of staying open later than usual, store hours, etc. One attendee suggested that the worst thing that could happen would be to advertise extended hours and then not be open when people come to shop. "The voice of one bad experience will override that of dozens who have memorable ones," he said.

The next merchant's meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 4 (Election Day) at Ceramics with Class.

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Elkins Mayor Judy Guye said at Tuesday's merchant's meeting that leaf pickup would begin in 1st Ward next week. Apparently, there have been some delays in getting started with this year's pickup program. For more information, call 636-1414.

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Log on to www.createwv.com and vote for Elkins as "West Virginia's next great creative community."

 
 

 

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